City of Brantford council members voted unanimously to include Net Zero in the Brantford Police Services facility redevelopment project after a long discussion at the Combined Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, September 6.
Conversation about the project sparked with confusion about upfront costs compared to long term savings. After the information was clarified to members of council, Councillor Cheryl Antoski stressed that the cost is more than just dollar amounts.
“When we talk about these initiatives as a council, it is important that we look at cost,” she said. “But part of our mandate is to make a livable city, to love where we live and to be healthy. This is about the cost of the bill versus the social cost and the environmental cost. If we don’t start making moves now, it is going to cost us a lot more down the road.”
Including Net Zero in the project plans would include additional research into using geothermal and solar energy in the facility’s redevelopment. This would be the city’s first project to include Net Zero.
Councillor Dan McCreary stressed the importance of the decision, reminding his fellow members of council that they voted to declare a climate emergency.
“What’s before us today is simply a matter of whether you want to hold true the fact that we declared a climate emergency,” he said. “If you voted in favour of that declaration, you should probably support this today.”
Councillor Jan Vanderstelt echoed Councillor McCreary, noting that the municipality is behind in terms of using renewable energy in city owned buildings.
“You can plug in the destination of anywhere on Google Earth and most municipalities, especially in Europe, have paid an awful lot more attention in delivering a product called solar energy and it has been working well for quite some time,” he said. “This is an opportunity to look at where we should go in the future. I think we do need to start playing catchup.”
Councillor Joshua Wall added onto what Councillor Vanderstelt said, expressing his strong support for the inclusion Net Zero in the project.
“If you think that this costs a lot now, wait until you see what it would cost us later if we didn’t think ahead,” he said. “We’ve got eyes on us, and if we don’t do what we say we were going to do, we’re giving people the opportunity to continue to ignore it. Yes, it costs money, but the result is a better future. I’m sorry to the taxpayer but when there is a world here for your grandkids and their grandkids, you’ll be happy we made this decision.”
The Net Zero design option carries a price tag of $5 million as it relates to the heating, ventilation, building control systems, as well as certification, servicing, and maintenance requirements. The staff report explores the potential savings stating that the estimated payback period for the building to be Net Zero is 20 years with an estimated operating cost savings of $240,000 savings year over year, without taking inflation of natural gas and electricity into consideration. Net Zero could lead to cost savings through the realization of future carbon emissions tax savings by eliminating carbon emissions.
Mayor Kevin Davis closed out the conversation by reminding members of council to hold themselves accountable on their past comments and decisions.
“We passed the Climate Declaration almost three years ago and if you don’t follow through with something, then what you have done is meaningless,” Mayor Davis said. “In some ways, it’s kind of a demonstration project, not just for us but for the community. This particular project has great symbolic significance that the municipality is showing leadership which hopefully makes other stakeholders, organizations and businesses follow in the years ahead because they see how it can be done.”
The motion was carried unanimously with ten members of council showing their support. Councillor John Utley was not in attendance at the meeting.
In addition to the inclusion of Net Zero in planning, the passed motion also gives staff the power to design the facility with the inclusion of the future growth space and to include both in the 2023 Capital Budget. The inclusion of future growth space is estimated to cost $5.7 million. The motion will face final approval at the special city council meeting on Tuesday, September 20.
Council approved a budget of $39 million for the project with $34 million allotted for capital construction costs. The BPS facility redevelopment project is scheduled to enter its close-out phase in the fall of 2025.